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Muslim Brotherhood

Nazih N. Ayubi, Joseph A. Kéchichian, Denis J. Sullivan, Joseph A. Kéchichian, Fred H. Lawson, Marion Boulby
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

    Muslim Brotherhood

    [This entry contains five subentries:


    This article is an overview of the origin, ideological development, and geographical spread of the Muslim Brotherhood; the companion articles focus on four countries where the movement has played an active role in religious, social, and political life.


    Founded in Ismailia, Egypt, in 1928 by Ḥasan al-Bannā (1906–1949), the Muslim Brotherhood (al- Ikhwān al-Muslimūn) is the parent body and main inspiration for many Islamist organizations in Egypt and several other Arab countries. The movement was initially announced as a purely religious and philanthropic society that aimed to spread Islamic morals and good works. Its emergence, however, was part of a widespread reaction to alarming developments that swept through the Muslim world. As Arabs were divided into spheres of influence by European powers—and after the 1926 attempt to restore the failed Turkish caliphate—the need to resist growing Western influence on Islamic culture increased. Nevertheless, major intellectuals like Salāmah Mūsā (d. 1959) and Ṭāhā Ḥusayn (d. 1973), openly propagated secularist ideas. Even some scholars of al-Azhar University in Cairo adopted apparently Western approaches in analyzing “Islamic” issues, a trend that reached its most disconcerting point with the publication in 1925 of ʿAli ʿAbd al-Rāziq (d. 1966) book on Islam and government, in which he denied that Islam was in any way concerned with politics.

    As a teacher and gifted orator, al-Bannā was able to attract to his movement members of the local intelligentsia, as well as some artisans and workers. The Ikhwān expressed interest in public affairs and developed a distinctive conception of the comprehensiveness of Islam that contrasted with that of both the established clergy and the conventional philanthropic charities. Al-Bannā called for a thorough-going and activist Islam. He considered the Islamic state as a significant ingredient of the desired order, but Ikhwān leaders probably did not consider the assumption of political power an imminent possibility. The tasks of moral reform (iṣlāḥ al-nufūs) and of agreeing on an Islamic methodology (minhaj Islāmī) must have seemed more appropriate for that early stage in the group's evolution. It was at this time that al-Bannā raised official ire by emphasizing the need to “guide” the State.

    The Ikhwān did not identify itself as a political party, although it acted much like one. Its activities acquired a distinct political character in the late 1930s, with the publication of the weekly al-Nadhīr (The Warning), which occasionally threatened to “fight any politician or organization that did not work for the support of Islam and the restoration of its glory.” Its support for absolute obedience (al-ṭāʿah) to the leader and its tight organizational pattern—which linked the highest level of the Guidance Council to the most basic level of the usrah (“family” or cell)—were likened to those of fascist organizations.

    Just before World War II, the Ikhwān boasted more than three hundred branches, although it had been careful not to antagonize the government. Its leaders avoided confrontation with the British at any price, while building up their own organizational and paramilitary capacity, especially the so-called “secret apparatus.” By 1947, the Ikhwān's membership reached 75,000 in Egypt alone, as special “phalanges” were formed, sometimes under the guise of roaming scouts (jawwalah). The movement built its own companies, factories, schools, and hospitals, and infiltrated various organizations, including the trade unions and the armed forces, to such a degree that by the end of the 1940s it was almost “a state within the State.” Parallel to these moderate efforts, it escalated “terrorist” attacks on British and Jewish interests in Egypt, in which many Egyptians were killed or injured. The government responded by dissolving the Brotherhood, as the confrontation between the two reached a peak late in 1948, after the assassination of Prime MinisterMaḥmūd Fahmī. al-Nuqrashī. Al-Bannā was in turn gunned down in February 1949, probably at the hands of government agents. Ikhwān membership had reached almost a half million active associates (ʿudw ʿāmil), with another half million sympathizers, in 200,000 branches throughout Egypt.

    New Political Emphasis.

    The disappearance of the charismatic leadership of al-Bannā in 1949 and, more particularly, the confrontation between the Ikhwān and the new revolutionary regime in Egypt throughout the 1950s, caused it to raise the “political” to a much higher rank in its order of concerns. Many brothers, including the new “general guide” (al-murshid al-ʿāmm) Ḥasan al-Huḍaybī (d. 1977), hoped that the Free Officers would welcome the Ikhwān into the revolutionary government. When this hope was frustrated, relations between them deteriorated, resulting in bloody confrontations in 1954 and 1965, repeated imprisonment, and torture. It was this confrontational atmosphere that eventually persuaded Sayyid Quṭb (d. 1966), a rising Ikhwān associate, to change his thinking about radical political Islam in Egypt and the Arab world.

    The detention of Quṭb and his colleagues led to an overall revision of the movement's ideology, the major part of which reflected a hatred for the state and the regime. Quṭb's ideas influenced most contemporary Islamic political movements and were found mainly in writings produced between his two periods of imprisonment. The key concept in this later discourse is jāhilīyah (total pagan ignorance). Inspired partly by Ibn Taymīyah but especially by Sayyid Abū al-ʿAlāʿ Mawdūdī (d. 1979)—and influenced by the fascist ideas of French surgeon Alexis Carrel (d. 1944)—Sayyid Quṭb abstracted this concept from any historical or geographical context, giving it a validity for all contemporary societies, including Muslim ones. The way out of jāhilīyah, as prescribed by Quṭb, is simple: a declaration of the total sovereignty of God (ḥākimīyah). Strongly affected by such ideas, the imprisoned brothers in their anguish and isolation and with the ever-present memory of their martyrs, would create an alternative to Nasserism, a “counter-program” that reflected the maturation of the contradictions between the Brotherhood and the Nasserist state—and, indeed, between Islamists and all similar “modernizing” programs such as Bathism (in Iraq and Syria) and Bourguibism (in Tunisia). After the late 1970s, this contradiction gave rise to the main ideological confrontation in the Arab world.

    Pan-Arab Activities.

    Soon after its founding, the Muslim Brotherhood movement spread into the countries adjoining Egypt, and it remains the main Pan-Arab Islamic movement. Its charter stipulates that it is a “universal Islamic assembly” (hayʿah islāmīya jamīʿah) rather than an Egyptian or even an Arab organization. It actively established branches from the mid-1930s onward, following visits by its leaders to Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere, and set up special tents in Mecca during the pilgrimage seasons in the 1940s and 1950s to greet, entertain, and convert pilgrim delegates from all over the Muslim world. Arab students, attracted to the movement while studying in Egypt, carried their ideas back to their countries. The Pan-Arab activities of the Ikhwān were stepped up during the Palestine War of 1948, to which it contributed volunteers. From then on, the Ikhwān did its best to support its fellow movements in other Arab countries when they were persecuted, an activity that was soon caught up in inter-Arab politics. For example, the Syrian brothers gave support to their Egyptian colleagues (and perhaps even provided the main regional headquarters, under the leadership of Muṣṭafā al-Sibāʿī) following the ordeal of the Egyptian Ikhwān in 1954. The movement also had appeal in North Africa, especially in Morocco—where it had close relations with the Istiqlāl Party and with Muḥammad ʿAllāl al-Fāsī (d. 1974)—and was not unknown in Tunisia, Algeria (where it maintained cordial relations with the ʿulamāʿ), and parts of the Horn of Africa, such as Eritrea and Somalia. Sympathetic groups, with similar orientations, flourished in India, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and of course Pakistan where the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī shares the Ikhwān ideology. More recently, the Ikhwān has made inroads in Europe and the Americas. Cooperation with these organizations has permitted the Muslim Brothers to influence the Islamic World Congress (Mūʿtamar al-ʿĀlam al-Islāmī).

    Government circles in several Arab countries believe that there is a “Muslim Brotherhood International” that coordinates activities and finances among the various countries’ branches. According to unconfirmed reports, this organization's structure includes, in addition to the highly authoritative position of the General Guide, a General Guidance Bureau (GGB, Maktab al-Irshād al-ʿAmm) and a General Consultative Council (GCC, Majlis al-Shūrā al-ʿAmm), both of which provide a distinct advantage to the Egyptian brothers.

    Although meetings and exchanges among Ikhwān leaders from various countries certainly occur and some transfer of funds probably takes place, the coordination is probably not as well planned and executed as authorities sometimes imply. Most of these movements, with the partial exception of Sudan, are underground or opposition movements that have enough problems in their own territory. And though the possibility of Saudi Arabian financing is sometimes mentioned, many of the brothers acquired part of their financial resources by working in the Arabian oil-exporting countries. Furthermore, the 1991 Gulf War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and various inter-Arab crises generated additional divisions, not only among the Brotherhoods from various countries but also sometimes within the Muslim Brotherhood movement of a single country. Regional confrontations have preoccupied Ikhwān groups during the past few decades, leading observers to speculate that a complex financial network was set up to connect operations in over seventy branches worldwide. In the early 1980s, the Brotherhood was considered a part of the Afghan anticommunist opposition, formed in opposition to the leftist policies of King Zahir Shāh. Moscow further alleged that the Muslim Brotherhood was a key force in the Chechen revolt and that some Ikhwān elements planned the suicide car-bombing of the headquarters of the Russian-backed government in Grozny, Chechnya on December 27, 2002.

    A recent development has been the electoral success and the participation in government by Muslim Brother elements in key Arab states, notably Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, and Kuwait. Whether such success would turn the Muslim Brothers into a more moderate, “legal” political force that accepted established rules of conduct in their respective countries, or whether it would induce them to follow a more radical, Pan-Islamist line, was impossible to determine. Yet, after the mid-1990s and with state assaults on various Islamist groups, Ikhwān organizations formed new “centrist” (wasaṭīyah) movements. In Egypt, for example, the Ḥizb al-Wasaṭ (Center Party) made some inroads without abandoning the quest for universal Islam. It lay low, pursuing purely national goals and in the 2005 legislative elections garnered twenty percent of the parliamentary seats. Elsewhere, Ikhwān assemblies supported erstwhile enemies, for practical reasons. In 2005, an alliance between the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Khaddām, the dissident former Syrian vice president, shocked observers. In fact, the 2006 Hizbullah-Israel war in Lebanon further sharpened that divide after Syrian Ikhwān leaders denounced President Bashshār al-Assad's meddling in Lebanon. Ironically, other Brotherhood groups rallied behind Hizbullah.

    Such accusations notwithstanding, the Muslim Brotherhood is far more moderate than other Islamist organizations. In dozens of countries, they offer a variety of political and nonpolitical options, thus differentiating themselves from more radical elements. This diversity is a testament to their success, as their earlier reliance on violence and extremist discourse were replaced with practicality and moderation.



    • Bayyumi, Zakariyya S.Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun wa al-Jamaʿat al-Islamiyyah (The Muslim Brothers and the Islamic Groups). Cairo: Maktabat Wahbah, 1974. Explores the many variations within the Brotherhood and its relations with other Islamic groups.
    • Carré, Olivier, and Gérard Michaud. Les Frères Musulmans, 1928–1982. Paris: Gallimard-Julliard, 1983. One of the best accounts of the Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria.
    • Eickelman, Dale F., and James P. Piscatori. Muslim Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996. Assesses ideological politics in transnational and regional settings throughout the Muslim world.
    • Gerges, Fawaz A.Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy. New York: Harcourt Trade Publishers, 2006. Highlights disagreements on critical issues among militant groups and individual leaders.
    • “Ikhwanweb.” The English web site of the Ikhwān.
    • Mitchell, Richard P.The Society of the Muslim Brothers. London: Oxford University Press, 1969. The classic study of the Brotherhood in Egypt to the mid-1950s. Reprinted in 1993 by Oxford University Press in New York, with a forward by John Voll.
    • Vidino, Lorenzo. “The Muslim Brotherhood's Conquest of Europe.”The Middle East Quarterly12, no. 1 (Winter 2005). www.meforum.org/article/687. Critical analysis of the Ikhwān, examining its spread outside the Arab World.

    Nazih N. Ayubi Updated by Joseph A. Kéchichian

    Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

    Contemporary Islamic social and political activism in Egypt was rooted in the 1928 foundation of the Jamʿīyat al-Ikhwān al-Muslimūn (Society of Muslim Brothers, also known as the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Ihkwān) by Ḥasan al-Bannā. The goals of the Ihkwān never wavered, concentrating on both the social and political, as it progressed on two tracks: to promote the causes of benevolence, charity, and development; and to defend nationalism, independence, and Islamism. For over eighty years, “Islamism” consistently meant the reform of society, a goal that expanded to include the full establishment of sharīʿah (Islamic law). To achieve such objectives, the tactics used by various groupings within the Ihkwān ranged from activism and pro-regime political accommodation, to militancy and anti-regime assassinations and violence; from philanthropy and economic institution building to accommodation with opposition political parties.

    Although Islamism and nationalism were theoretically mutually exclusive, the Ihkwān in fact pursued both simultaneously, with some success. According to the Ihkwān, Egypt was “a part of the general Arab nation [waṭan], and when we act for Egypt, we act for Arabism, the East, and for Islam” (Mitchell, 1969, p. 264). This model was pursued throughout the world, although the party remained illegal in its founding nation, even though its leaders sat in parliament.

    Ḥasan al-Bannā and the Ihkwān.

    Ḥasan al-Bannā was born in 1906 in Buḥayrah Province, northeast of Cairo. His father was imām and teacher at the local mosque. By his early teen years, al-Bannā was committed to Sufism, teaching, organizing for the cause of Islam, nationalism, and activism. As an organizer, he worked with various societies, and by the age of twelve he became the leader of the Society for Moral Behavior in his hometown of Maḥmudīyah. At age thirteen, he became a member of the Ḥasāfīyah Ṣūfī order, and was named secretary of the Ḥasāfīyah Society for Charity, whose goals were to preserve Islamic morality and resist Christian missionaries. Aḥmad al-Sukkarī, head of the order, later helped al-Bannā develop the idea of the Ihkwān.

    Al-Bannā came of age as Saʿad Zaghlūl and his Wafd Party agitated for independence from Britain. This quest was accompanied by a desire to adopt a liberal political experiment as the monarchy drifted. Al-Bannā graduated from Dār al-ʿUlūm (Teacher's College) in Cairo in 1927. He received a modern education in the sciences and continued his classical Islamic studies. Combined with the extracurricular influences of Sufism, the thinking of Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā and the Salafī movement, nationalism, and his father's instruction, the awakened young man developed a diverse intellectual basis for his own mission. This development continued with his first position, teaching Arabic in a primary school in Ismailia, in the heart of the British-occupied Suez Canal Zone.

    A teacher of children by day, al-Bannā at night taught the adults of Ismailia, especially laborers, small merchants, and civil servants. Beyond the school and mosque, al-Bannā held discussion groups in coffeehouses and other popular meeting places. He was also active in lobbying the power brokers of his new community, the ʿulamāʿ, shaykhs of Ṣūfī orders, leading families, and social and religious organizations or clubs. Al-Bannā was deeply troubled by the foreign presence in Ismailia. It was there that his nationalist sentiments merged with anticolonialism, as he spoke against British military occupation, the Suez Canal Company, foreign control of public utilities, and the wide gap between the luxurious lifestyles of foreign owners and managers and the miserable conditions of their Egyptian employees and servants.

    Nevertheless, Ismailia was not a center of power, and al-Bannā prepared his move to the capital. In 1927, he supported the creation of the Young Men's Muslim Association in Cairo, immediately before founding his own Society of Muslim Brothers in Ismailia (1928). The following years solidified support in and around Ismailia, as al-Bannā and fellow members toured the countryside, preaching in mosques, homes, factories, clubs, and coffeehouses. Branches were established in Port Said and Suez City, and other contacts were made in Cairo and parts of the Nile Delta. A headquarters was established, and separate schools for boys and for girls built, along with mosques, clubs, and home industries. Not surprisingly, al-Bannā was denounced by various groups as a communist, a Wafdist, an antimonarchist republican, and a criminal violating civil-service regulations governing the collection of money. However, he was consistently cleared of allegations of criminal misconduct, some of them made by dissidents in his own organization. He finally moved to Cairo in 1932 where he joined his brother, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Bannā and the latter's Society for Islamic Culture. The two merged their operations to form the first branch of the Ihkwān in Cairo.

    Ever the methodical planners, the two brothers devoted most of the 1930s to organizing, honing their message, and developing print media to reach a wider audience. This was also a time of political activism, as al-Bannā communicated directly with kings (Fu’ād and Fārūq [Farouq]), prime ministers (particularly Muṣṭafā al-Naḥḥās Pāshā), and heads of Arab governments. His admonition was simple: reform your governments and societies in the spirit and letter of Islam. In the 1940s, the Ihkwān became the most popular and respected nationalist force opposing British imperialism and military occupation, and Zionism in Palestine. Its standing grew as both the Wafd and the palace, closely associated with the British, were largely discredited as nationalist forces.

    Beyond al-Bannā.

    Egyptian leaders and theoreticians of the Ihkwān were among the most influential twentieth-century political figures. After his assassination on February 12, 1949, Ḥasan al-Bannā was succeeded as general guide (murshid ʿāmm) by Ḥasan al-Huḍaybī (1949–1972), a judge and an outsider to the Muslim Brotherhood. His son, Maʿmūn al-Huḍaybī, became the official spokesperson of the Ihkwān, although the supreme leadership remained with ʿUmar al-Tilimsānī (1972–1986), the third general guide, and Ḥāmid Abū al-Nasr, his successor (1986–1996). Muḥammad Mahdī ʿĀkif (ʿAkef), an Ihkwān member elected to the Egyptian parliament in 1987, became Secretary General in 1996. He was jailed for three years but was released in 1999.

    The most famous theoretician of the brotherhood was Sayyid Quṭb, who joined the Ihkwān after al-Bannā's assassination in 1949, and became its chief spokesman after its second dissolution in 1954. On orders from President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who loathed his ideas and feared his growing influence, Quṭb was executed in 1966. The Egyptian theoretician was influenced by the Pakistani theologian, Sayyid Abū al-Aʿlā Mawdūdī, and in turn influenced the thoughts of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran, as well as such Egyptian militant groups as al-Takfīr wa al-Hijrah and al-Jihād, the latter responsible for the assassination of Anwar el-Sadat in 1981. Quṭb's principal concern was with the use of jihād (struggle) against jāhilī (ignorant or pagan) societies—both Western and so-called Islamic ones—that required radical transformation. Remarkably, Quṭb was disenchanted with the West in general and the United States in particular—where he lived between 1948 and 1950. He earned a Master's degree from the Colorado State College of Education, now the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado, and observed and perhaps even rejected the moral decadence and anti-Arab bias of Western civilization. Still, he also observed political participation in Colorado and opted to confront the Nasser regime upon his return.

    Ironically, key “Free Officers” and other army officials who planned the 1952 coup, maintained strong contacts with the Ihkwān before their rise to power. Anwar al-Sadat was the principal liaison between the two groups until the early 1940s; he was replaced in 1942 by ʿAbd al-Munʿim ʿAbd al-Raʿuf, who was both a dedicated member of the Ihkwān and a Free Officer. The 1954 assassination attempt against Nasser, purportedly by a member of the Ihkwān, ended whatever accommodation existed between them. Yet, this attempt allowed Nasser to displace General Muḥammad Neguib, titular head of the Free Officers, whose name was linked with the Ihkwān. Shortly thereafter, the brotherhood was disbanded, and its activities prohibited. Thousands of brothers were imprisoned; dozens were hanged in 1954, and several more throughout the 1960s. Many remained in prison for over two decades as the party was declared illegal.

    After Sadat succeeded Nasser in 1970, he rehabilitated the Ihkwān and sought its support, primarily to buttress his anti-leftist initiatives. Cairo released dozens of brothers in 1971, including al-Tilimsānī, who had been tortured in Nasser's prisons. Nevertheless, Sadat upheld the Ihkwān's “illegal” status as a political party, even refusing to convert it into a jamʿīyah (private voluntary organization, PVO) registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs. The popular assembly was tolerated as long as nooses were maintained around its leaders’ necks. By 1979, amid increasing criticism of his peace initiative with Israel, Sadat offered to confer PVO status on the Ihkwān, as well as to appoint al-Tilimsānī to the Shūrā Council (the upper chamber of parliament). As with most presidential offers, a condition was attached, namely that the brothers moderate their criticism of Sadat's policies; al-Tilimsānī rejected the overture. An acceptance would have placed the Ihkwān under direct government control, and given the Ministry of Social Affairs power to dissolve any organization at will, confiscate its properties, and change its board of directors, and al-Tilimsānī would have been beholden to the president rather than to a voting membership or public.

    Al-Tilimsānī and top Ihkwān leaders were subjected to Sadat's fury in September 1981, when approximately 1,500 Egyptians were arrested, allegedly for crimes against the state. Senior officials were quickly released after Sadat's assassination on October 6; the Ihkwān was not implicated in that violence. In fact, by 1981, the Brotherhood established itself as a nonviolent opposition movement, as al-Tilimsānī moved the organization into the mainstream of political and social life. Under his leadership, the brotherhood accepted political pluralism and parliamentary democracy. Because it was still banned, the Ihkwān formed an opposition alliance with the Wafd Party in order to compete in the 1984 parliamentary elections. Interestingly, the alliance gained sixty-five seats (out of 450), seven of which were earmarked for Muslim Brothers. This victory transformed the alliance into a respectable opposition to the National Democratic Party (NDP) and President Hosni Mubarak.

    The coalition collapsed by 1987, and the Muslim Brotherhood formed the Islamic Alliance with the Socialist Labor Party and the Liberal Party, in order to organize new plebiscites. The Brotherhood enjoyed a dominant position in this alliance, which emboldened it to present and defend a ten-point platform to implement sharīʿah. “Al-Islām huwa al-ḥall” (Islam is the solution) was the only campaign slogan for the alliance. The brothers reached out to the Coptic Christian community at this time as they refined their political agenda. The second of the ten points called for “full equal rights and obligations between Muslims and their Coptic brothers,” and the only Copt at the top of any party list elected in 1987 was on the Islamic Alliance list. Although the Ihkwān joined other opposition parties and boycotted the 1990 elections, they returned to the democratic process in the mid 1990s, underscoring the necessity for political moderation. Throughout the 1990s, the Ihkwān were at the forefront of public debate over the most crucial issues in Egypt, especially the question of the appropriate role of religion in politics and society.

    Despite frequent police harassment and arrests, Ihkwān candidates left their marks on the Egyptian parliament. In 2005, they participated in pro-democracy demonstrations with the Kifāyah (enough) movement, which was first established in 2004 at the grassroots level. The Egyptian Movement for Change, the formal name for Kifāyah, objected to the National Democratic Party decision to appoint Gamal Mubarak, the President's son, as its secretary-general in preparation for an eventual succession to the highest post. Such courageous opposition to the NDP was made possible by the results of the 2005 parliamentary elections, when Brotherhood candidates won eighty-eight seats, or twenty percent of the total, to form the largest opposition bloc. What was even more remarkable was that this gain was made despite clear violations of process, including the physical prevention of citizens from casting their ballots, and the arrest of thousands. It was comical that the legal opposition parties, including the Wafd, managed to win a mere fourteen seats. For Cairo, Ihkwān parliamentarians were “independents,” but the onus was on the state to justify its perpetual ban on its largest parliamentary bloc.

    The publications of the Ihkwān over the years have had a significant impact on the course of public debate. Ḥasan al-Bannā knew the importance of communication, both to spread his own message and to refute official or other adversarial reports about him and his organization. Since 1933 and the publication of Majallat al-Ihkwān al-Muslimūn (Magazine of the Muslim Brothers), the society has struggled against government censorship and internal divisions to produce a host of newsletters, magazines, and journals, including Al-Nadhīr (The Warner; 1938–1939); Al-Manār (The Lighthouse; 1939–1941), previously the organ of the Salafīyah movement and Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā; Al-Ihkwān al-Muslimūn (The Muslim Brothers; 1942–1948), first a biweekly then a daily newspaper; and Al-Shihāb (The Meteor; 1946–1948), a research journal. The last two were suspended in 1948 when the Muslim Brotherhood was dissolved for the first time.

    Al-Daʿwah (The Call) appeared from 1951 to 1956, struggling in the last two years under government censorship and, finally, the official disbanding of the Ihkwān. In 1976, Al-Daʿwah and other religious and opposition publications were allowed to publish again, as Sadat sought to demonstrate to Western supporters his commitment to political as well as economic liberalization. In addition to a campaign against the Camp David peace process, which was portrayed as humiliating to Egypt, and against Sadat's reform of family law and women's rights, Al-Daʿwah kept up a steady campaign for the more general goals of Islamic renewal of society and full implementation of sharīʿah. Sadat banned this publication in September 1981 during his infamous crackdown on opposition leaders. In the mid-1980s, the Ihkwān launched another effort, Liwāʿ al-Islām (The Banner of Islam), a weekly publication. This would-be successor to Al-Daʿwah was also banned temporarily during the 1990–1991 Gulf War, partly because of its criticism of Egypt's participation in the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq. Zaynab al-Ghazālī (b. 1917), the most prominent woman associated with the Ihkwān and a regular contributor to Al-Daʿwah, was a fierce opponent of the feminist movement and a promoter of traditional Islamic values for women and men. She maintained that women should have important public roles as long as it was in the defense of Islam and traditional Islamic values.

    Connections with Other Groups.

    The Muslim Brotherhood has had its share of internal disputes, some of which resulted in the branching off of members to form other Islamic groups. The only such split—though there were several disputes—in al-Bannā's time occurred in 1939 with the establishment of the Jamʿīyat Shabāb Sayyidinā Muḥammad (Society of Muhammad's Youth). In 1945, after Law 49 governing PVOs was passed, the society divided itself into two: the politically active section that continued under al-Bannā's leadership and a section concerned with welfare and social services with a separate leadership and structure. This charitable section received government assistance to run schools, technical institutes, small industries, social work, hospitals, clinics, and dispensaries. Earlier, in 1942–1943, al-Bannā established al-Niẓām al-Khāṣṣ (the special section), a secret apparatus inspired by the notion of jihād and used for the defense of Islam and of the society itself against police and various governments.

    Other Islamist groups in Egypt either were offshoots of the Ihkwān or shared its general goals of Islamic reform and implementation of sharīʿah. Even if many of these groups were not direct descendants of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ihkwān remained the theological, if not political, guide to numerous Islamist groups in Egypt. They differed mainly in tactics, not goals; most advocated violence and militancy. The Ihkwān advocated gradualism and working within the system in order to change it, especially after the late 1970s. Among various Islamist groups in Egypt that were influenced by al-Bannā or Sayyid Quṭb were: al-Jihād (Holy Struggle), Jund Allāh (God's Troops), Jaysh al-Taḥrīr al-Islāmī (Islamic Liberation Army), Jamīʿyat al-Tablīgh (Society of Islamic Propagation), al-Takfīr wa al-Hijrah (former Ihkwān member Shukrī Muṣṭafā's Society of Muslims), and al-Jamāʿāt al-Islāmīyah (Islamic Groups), among others.

    In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the Ihkwān lay low in order to pursue national goals through the Egyptian legislature. The Brotherhood formed an internal experts committee, nicknamed “the parliamentary kitchen.” Without abdicating their traditional religious agenda, the Brothers worked to provide affordable housing, better health care and, most importantly, strict accountability for the series of bus, train, and ferry disasters that befell Egypt between 1999 and 2007.

    Although various governments—monarchical and republican—have outlawed and restricted its activities, the very success and continuing popularity of the Ihkwān demonstrated to Egyptians that Islamic groups derived legitimacy from the positive influence they exerted on the daily lives of the people. In May 2006, the Ihkwān called for judicial reforms, as it prepared for a clash over Mubarak's succession. While Cairo resolved to deny legal recognition to the Ihkwān as either a political party or a jamīʿyah, the Brothers understood that reforms were more likely if and when Islamists cooperated with others, including secularists and liberals. While some leaders vigorously pursued the legalization goal, Cairo recognized the Ihkwān's de facto existence. It was a silent victory even if repression and secrecy postponed the achievement of its original goals.



    • Al-Awadi, Hesham. In Pursuit of Legitimacy: The Muslim Brothers and Mubarak, 1982–2000. London: I. B. Tauris, 2004. Argues that growing impact of Brotherhood is based on its presence within syndicates, student unions, investment companies and parliament, that gave the Ihkwān “social” legitimacy vis-à-vis the regime that revoked many of its policies.
    • Ayubi, Nazih N.Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Arab World. London: Routledge, 1991. In its numerous case studies of Islamic movements, this book analyzes the Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Jordan, Palestine, and Arabia.
    • Baker, Raymond William. Sadat and After: Struggles for Egypt's Political Soul. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990. Chapter 8 deals with the Muslim Brothers in the 1970s and 1980s.
    • Esposito, John L.Islam and Politics. 4Thed.Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1998. Extensive analysis of the development of the Brotherhood as an alternative to secular nationalism in Egypt and elsewhere.
    • Kepel, Gilles. Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharaoh. Translated from the French by Jon Rothschild. 2d ed.Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. Compares the neo-Muslim Brotherhood with the original leadership of the Ihkwān and with leaders of other contemporary Islamic organizations in Egypt.
    • Mitchell, Richard P.The Society of the Muslim Brothers. London: Oxford University Press, 1969. The most detailed and authoritative account of the founding, development, and program of the Ihkwān.
    • Quṭb, Sayyid. Social Justice in Islam. Translated from the Arabic by John B. Hardie and Hamid Algar. 3d ed.Oneonta, N.Y.: Islamic Publications International, 2000. Analyzes the persistent gross socioeconomic inequality in most Muslim societies.
    • Springborg, Robert. Mubarak's Egypt: Fragmentation of the Political Order. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1989. Section on Islamist opposition analyzes its strengths and weaknesses generally and the factionalization of the Brotherhood in particular.
    • Zuhur, Sherifa. Revealing Reveiling: Islamist Gender Ideology in Contemporary Egypt. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1992. Important discussion of the Ihkwān's attitudes toward a host of gender-specific issues, such as birth control, polygamy, divorce, female education, veiling, and associational activity.
    • An official Ihkwān web page carries many useful details on the group in Egypt and its parliamentary activities, including press releases on policy issues:
    • The Arabic version is at www.Ihkwānonline.com.

    Denis J. Sullivan

    Updated by Joseph A. Kéchichian

    Muslim Brotherhood in Syria

    From its beginnings, the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria has acted as an opposition movement, but has never held any official position of power. The Brotherhood traces its origins to the late 1930s, when the Syrian people were struggling for independence from French rule. The structural changes that Syria experienced during the years between the two world wars proved especially disruptive in the cities and towns. Small-scale merchants and manufacturers suffered as a result of expanding European trade. Persistent inflation made it increasingly difficult for the middle and laboring classes to survive. Uprooted rural laborersflocked to outlying urban districts after being pushed off their farms by drought or, more commonly, by growing indebtedness to absentee landowners and moneylenders. People sought the support of local patrons who might help them articulate their grievances and meet their needs. Moreover, the leaders of the nationalist movement had become alienated from their main urban constituencies, because of their preoccupation with negotiations (ultimately unsuccessful) with the French. The resultant popular discontent allowed more radical groups to challenge the authority of the veteran nationalists.

    To address the severe problems facing Syria's urban, predominantly Sunnī populace, there arose a variety of social and political associations. Some of these were benevolent societies (jamʿīyāt), headed by religious scholars with formal training in Islamic law. Such societies included the House of Dār al-Arqām in Aleppo, the Society of the Bond (Jam’iyyat al-Rābiṭah) in Homs and the Young Men's Muslim Association in Damascus. On the eve of Syria's independence, the Dār al-Arqām moved to Damascus, where it merged with other Islamist associations and, at a 1944 conference, renamed itself the Muslim Brotherhood (Ihkwān al-Muslimūn). It is generally accepted that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (established in 1928), played a role in the emergence of the Brotherhood in Syria. Syrian students who studied in Cairo became familiar with the ideas of Ḥasan al-Bannā, the founder of the Egyptian organization. One such student was Muṣṭafā al-Sibāʿī, who became the Syrian Brotherhood's first general supervisor (al-muraqib al-ʿamm).

    The earliest objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria were to nurture Islamic morals and ethics, to reform the state bureaucracy by applying laws and regulations in an unbiased way, and to bring about national independence. Such ideas were disseminated through neighborhood schools and periodicals associated with the Brotherhood, most notably the newspaper al-Manār (The Lighthouse), published in Aleppo. The organization's first published manifestos offered no detailed plan of action, but simply underscored the broad goals of combating ignorance, immorality, and deprivation and of establishing a fully independent Syria, whose political and legal systems would no longer discriminate among citizens along sectarian lines, as they had under the French.

    The Arab military defeat in Palestine in 1948 enabled the Brotherhood to expand its following in Syrian cities and towns, especially in Damascus, where during the 1950s its representatives consistently won a fifth of the parliamentary seats allotted to the capital and its environs. Throughout this period, the Muslim Brotherhood competed with Communists, Bathists, Nasserists, and other forces disenchanted with the veteran nationalists who had governed Syria since independence in 1946. The challenge posed by the Nasserists proved to be particularly severe, since the two movements shared the same popular constituency, the Sunnī urban lower middle classes. Not surprisingly, the Brotherhood actively supported Syria's 1961 secession from the Egypt-dominated United Arab Republic, which had been established in 1958. See NASSERISM. Nevertheless, intense rivalry with Nasserists and Communists led the Brotherhood to formulate a loose package of economic reforms in the mid-1950s that called for “Islamic socialism.”

    The Baʿth Party's seizure of power in 1963 focused the Muslim Brotherhood's attention squarely on the more radical economic and social policies introduced by this avowedly secular political movement, as well as on the party's insertion of large numbers of provincial cadres into the central administration. Such measures not only undercut the interests of absentee landowners, rich merchants, industrialists, and senior state officials, but also jeopardized the livelihoods of the shopkeepers and small-scale manufacturers who formed the Brotherhood's primary basis of support. Religious figures associated with the Brotherood mobilized popular protests against the new regime, particularly in Aleppo, Hamāh, and Homs. But in the aftermath of Syria's defeat in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 and the rise of a more pragmatic wing of the Baʿth Party led by Hafiz al-Assad in 1969–70, a schism developed inside the Brotherhood. Militants in Aleppo and Hamāh pressed for armed struggle against the Assad regime; they were countered by the Damascus followers of ʿIṣām al-ʿAṭṭār, a religious scholar who had replaced Muṣṭafā al-Sibāʿī as general supervisor in 1957. The ʿAṭṭār wing identified a convergence of interest between the small-scale traders and manufacturers who backed the Brotherhood in Damascus and the new government's commitment to economic liberalization and willingness to solicit investment monies from the Arab oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf.

    The Assad regime's honeymoon with the Damascus wing of the Muslim Brotherhood did not last long. A revised, explicitly secular constitution promulgated in 1973 provoked widespread popular protest, which forced the government to amend the document to stipulate that the president had to be a Muslim. During the mid-1970s, the Brotherhood's northern militants gained the upper hand over the Damascus wing; they subsequently escalated the level of violence directed against the regime. This phase in the Muslim Brotherhood's struggle against the Bathist order is closely identified with the leadership of ʿAdnān Saʿd al-Dīn, a teacher and writer from Hamāh, who had become general supervisor in a disputed election in 1971. Several factors prompted the Brotherhood to adopt a strategy of armed struggle (jihād): the Syrian military intervention in the Lebanese civil war; flagrant corruption associated with the government's economic liberalization program; and, above all, the heightened power of the rural ʿAlawī (a branch of Shīʿī Islam followed by a minority in Syria, including the Assad family) community, whose political and economic gains came largely at the expense of the urban Sunnī majority.

    The Muslim Brotherhood's tactics at first focused on assassinating prominent ʿAlawī figures, but soon expanded into armed attacks on symbols of Bathist rule, including local party offices, police stations, and military and security installations. Most notable were the June 1979 killing of eighty-three ʿAlawī artillery cadets in Aleppo, a cluster of mass demonstrations and boycotts in Aleppo, Hamāh, and Homs in March 1980, and an attempt on the life of the president later that same year.

    In the face of escalating violence, the government decreed in July 1980 that anyone found to be connected to the Muslim Brotherhood would be sentenced to death. The regime then cracked down on the Brotherhood, using its formidable armed forces and security services, in particular the dreaded elite military and intelligence forces whose ranks consisted almost exclusively of ʿAlawī personnel. Under this pressure, the Brotherhood regrouped under the banner of the Islamic Front in Syria (al-Jabhah al-Islāmīyah fī Sūrīyah), a broad alliance of Islamist organizations established in October 1980. Shaykh Muḥammad al-Bayanūnī, a prominent member of the Sunnī religious hierarchy in Aleppo, became the Front's secretary general, but its leading light remained ʿAdnān Saʿd al-Dīn, the Brotherhood's general supervisor. The Islamic Front's chief ideologue was Saʿīd Ḥawwā, a religious scholar from Hamāh who, with Saʿd al-Dīn, had been a leader of the northern militants that took control of the Brotherhood in the mid-1970s.

    Six years of terror and counterterror culminated in a confrontation between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Assad regime in the socially conservative Sunnī stronghold of Hamāh. There in February 1982, militants affiliated with the Brotherhood proclaimed an armed uprising and seized control of large parts of the city. It took elite military and security forces two weeks to crush the rebellion, killing between five thousand and twenty thousand civilians and razing the central business district and historic grand mosque. The showdown dealt a devastating blow to the Brotherhood, and put the regime's adversaries on notice that the authorities would tolerate no overt challenge to Baʿth Party rule.

    Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which struck roots in both urban and rural areas, the Brotherhood in Syria has always been exclusively urban. This can be explained in part by the fact that the countryside remains heavily populated by heterodox communities, such as the ʿAlawīs, Druzes, and Ismāʿīlīs. The Syrian Brotherhood specifically appealed to small-scale traders and manufacturers in the cities and towns, who have long enjoyed close ties to Sunnī religious scholars and preachers attached to the mosques that are located in the bazaars (sūqs) where they work and reside. Because many figures in the middle ranks of the religious hierarchy also earn their living as traders, they, like their followers, have supported private property rights and thus stood firmly opposed to the socialist reforms carried out by successive Bathist governments.

    In the 1970s, when it became the most visible and outspoken opponent of the Assad regime, the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria attracted large numbers of students, school teachers, engineers, and skilled professionals, who came mostly from urban trading and manufacturing backgrounds. These activists contributed to the Brotherhood's heightened militancy, as well as to a marked generation gap between younger, well-educated radicals and their comparatively poorly-educated, more conservative elders. Only rough estimates exist for the size of the organization at any given time. Although its numbers fluctuated widely, it probably reached its maximum size of around ten thousand activists during the late 1970s. The government's concerted efforts to destroy the Brotherhood reduced its ranks to no more than five thousand on the eve of the Hamāh uprising, and to far fewer thereafter.

    The ideological orientation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria is most clearly articulated in the Islamic Front's manifesto of November 1980. Although it was designed to appeal to a broad range of opponents of the Assad regime, the manifesto nonetheless included a number of key positions that the Brotherhood had championed over the years. It emphasized the Syrian people's right to regain the fundamental political and civil liberties that they had enjoyed during the constitutional period of the late 1940s and early 1950s. It called for an independent judiciary, and for a system of representative government based on the rule of law and the Islamic concept of mutual consultation (shūrā). And it emphasized the importance of continuing jihād as a means to eliminate pervasive sectarianism, particularly in the armed forces; it even raised the spectre of civil war along sectarian lines unless the members of the ʿAlawī community repudiated Hafiz al-Assad's claim to the presidency. Many of the values and principles highlighted in the manifesto were not exclusively Islamic in character, particularly those that emphasized natural rights and civil liberties. In this sense, the Brotherhood marched in step with a variety of Islamist opposition movements throughout the Middle East that made individual freedoms their highest priority in the struggle against authoritarian rule.

    Economic rights were also stressed. The 1980 manifesto insisted that private ownership of land and other property be fully restored, and that industrial and agricultural laborers be given an appropriate share of the ownership of public sector companies. The Islamic Front's economic orientation closely corresponded to the expressed interests of urban Sunnī shopkeepers and small-scale manufacturers, who resented the government's intervention in economic affairs, and its evident favoritism toward military officers, workers in large-scale industry, women, and rural minorities, especially the ʿAlawīs.

    After the crushing defeat at Hamāh, the Muslim Brotherhood's prospects dimmed. The strategy of armed struggle proved to be a complete failure, and severely damaged the organization's reputation among the general public. Divisions inside the leadership over whether or not to maintain a belligerent posture toward the regime, and over the Brotherhood's relations with Islamist movements in neighboring countries, contributed to its fragility during the remainder of the 1980s. External allies turned their backs on the Brotherhood as well. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini made it clear that Iran would take no steps to undermine the regime in Damascus, since it was the only Arab government to assist the Islamic Republic in the war with Iraq that erupted in September 1980. The Syrian Brotherhood's best hope for outside support came from Jordan, where the Islamist movement steadily gathered momentum.

    Desperate for allies, the Muslim Brotherhood forged a coalition with a wide range of organizations opposed to the Baʿth Party, which coalesced in mid-1982 as the National Alliance for the Liberation of Syria. The alliance's platform reiterated many of the demands contained in the Islamic Front's 1980 manifesto, but it conspicuously dropped all mention of such explicitly Islamic notions as shūrā. A dissident, radical faction led by ʿAdnān ʿUqla rejected the new coalition and the comparatively liberal platform that it advanced, but the militants remained isolated and on the run.

    By the early 1990s, contacts between the Brotherhood and the authorities became more frequent, and in December 1995 the general supervisor, Shaykh ʿAbd al-Fattaḥ Abū Ghudah, returned to Damascus from Saudi Arabia. He pledged not to engage in overtly political activity and settled down to teach theology and Islamic law in Aleppo. Activists in London then elected ʿAlī Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Bayanūnī to the post of general supervisor. As the decade ended, leading figures of the Brotherhood expressed increasingly moderate sentiments. In August 1999, for example, they issued a proclamation that called on the government to abandon autocratic rule and establish “democracy, freedom and political pluralism.” Such demands were repeated in the wake of Hafiz al-Assad's death in June 2000. Following the election of Bashar al-Assad to the presidency in July, the general supervisor told reporters that the Muslim Brotherhood did not even have to be permitted to operate legally inside Syria; it would be enough to come up with some kind of “formula” that would allow the organization to “express its views” concerning public issues.

    In May 2001, the Muslim Brotherhood published a Covenant of National Honor, which called for the creation in Syria of a “modern state” (dawlah ḥadīthīyah), that is, “a state of rotation” in which “free and honest ballot boxes are the basis for the rotation of power between all the sons of the homeland.” The document made no mention of the concept of shūrā, nor of the implementation of Islamic law (sharīʿah). An April 2005 statement once again demanded “free and fair elections” and the termination of the draconian state of emergency that had been imposed in 1963. The general supervisor announced in January 2006 that the Brotherhood had decided to join forces with Syria's exiled former vice president, ʿAbd al-Halīm Khaddām, in a campaign to replace the Bathist regime with a democratic system. In taking this step, the Brotherhood allied themselves with the liberal activists who had issued the Damascus Declaration in October 2005.

    Ultimately, the Muslim Brotherhood's ability to effect meaningful political change in Syria will depend on how deftly the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad wields the carrot and the stick. In the post–cold war era, the Syrian government no longer enjoys the largesse and protection of the Soviet Union. United States pressure on Syria to negotiate a less than favorable settlement with Israel, particularly in the aftermath of the second Palestinian uprising of 2000 and the February 2006 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, seems unlikely to loosen the Baʿth Party's grip on power. Nevertheless, the visible, albeit limited, successes registered by Islamist movements in surrounding countries offer the Brotherhood a glimmer of hope, as well as a wide assortment of strategies to emulate.



    • Abd-Allah, Umar F.The Islamic Struggle in Syria. Berkeley, 1983. Insider's account of the Islamist movement.
    • Batatu, Hanna. “Syria's Muslim Brethren.”MERIP Reports110 (November–December 1982): 12–20, 34, 36. Penetrating analysis of the Brotherhood's social foundation.
    • Carré, Olivier. Les frères musulmans: Egypte et Syrie, 1928–1982. Paris, 1983. Insightful comparison of the Egyptian and Syrian brotherhoods.
    • Commins, David D.Islamic Reform: Politics and Social Change in Late Ottoman Syria. New York, 1990. Detailed survey of the societies that presaged the Brotherhood.
    • Hinnebusch, Raymond A.“The Islamic Movement in Syria: Sectarian Conflict and Urban Rebellion in an Authoritarian-Populist Regime.” In Islamic Resurgence in the Arab World, edited by Ali E. Hillal Dessouki, pp. 138–169. New York, 1982. Succinct overview of the Baʿthist era.
    • Kelidar, Abbas. “Religion and State in Syria.”Asian Affairs61 (February 1974): 16–22. Authoritative account of the 1973 constitutional crisis.
    • Lobmeyer, Hans Guenter. “Islamic Ideology and Secular Discourse: The Islamists of Syria.”Orient32 (September 1991): 392–418. The Islamic Front era.
    • Mayer, Thomas. “The Islamic Opposition in Syria, 1961–1982.”Orient24 (December 1983): 589–609. Cogent summary of events surrounding the Hamāh revolt.
    • Reissner, Johannes. Ideologie und Politik der Muslimbrüder Syriens. Freiburg, 1980. Path-breaking study of the intellectual origins and ideological development of the Brotherhood in the 1940s and 1950s.
    • Teitelbaum, Joshua. “The Muslim Brotherhood and the ‘Struggle for Syria’. ”Middle Eastern Studies40 (May 2004): 134–158. Reconstruction of a neglected period.
    • Weismann, Itzchak. “The Politics of Popular Religion: Sufis, Salafis, and Muslim Brothers in 20th-Century Hamah.”International Journal of Middle East Studies37 (Fall 2005): 39–58. Rare description of developments outside Damascus.
    • Zisser, Eyal. “Syria, the Ba'th Regime and the Islamic Movement: Stepping on a New Path?”Muslim World95 (January 2005): 43–65. Cogent summary of recent events.

    Fred H. Lawson

    Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan

    An enduring feature of Jordanian political life for more than sixty years, the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan (al-ikhwān al-muslimīn) was created as part of an effort by the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Ḥasan al-Bannā (1906–1949), to form additional bases of support for his movement. In the early 1940s, members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood were sent to both Palestine and Jordan to establish new branches.

    In 1946, the first Jordanian branch was founded in the town of Salt; further centers were then established in Amman, Irbid, and Kayak. The leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood was indigenous, and the first head of the organization was a prominent cleric, Ḥājj ʿAbd al-Laṭī al-Qurah (d. 1953). Ḥājj al-Qurah led an eight-member majlis (ruling council), which directed the new movement. This leadership structure mirrored that of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

    The leaders of the new movement registered the organization under the Jordanian Charity Societies and Clubs Law. In addition; Ḥājj al-Qurah sought official approval from the Jordanian monarch for his organization. King Abdullah (r. 1946–1951) extended tacit approval to the organization but warned that it would be rescinded if the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood strayed from the spiritual to the political. At this point the Muslim Brotherhood was essentially a religious organization with a reformist educational agenda. Nevertheless, its very founding at this time created the possibility for the future development of a politically active Islamist movement.

    The Islamic Message.

    Through its charitable and educational activities, the movement was able to spread the message countrywide that Jordanians should strive to return to Islamic values and reject the corrupting influences of Western colonialism.

    Following the 1948 Arab–Israeli war and the Jordanian annexation of the West Bank in 1950, the number of branches of the Muslim Brotherhood increased, as existing Islamic organizations active in the West Bank were absorbed. As a result of this expanding base of support in the West Bank, the leadership and cadres of the Muslim Brotherhood became more politicized.

    Political Consolidation.

    Following the death of Ḥājj al-Qurah in 1953, a new leader, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Khalīfah, an attorney, was appointed. His appointment signaled the transfer of leadership into the hands of educated professionals, a trend that has continued to the present day.

    Increasingly close relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and the monarchy were the most striking feature under the leadership of al-Khalīfah. During the period of Egyptian state repression of the Muslim Brotherhood, the conservative Jordanian regime found its own branch of the Muslim Brotherhood a useful ally against leftist movements. King Hussein, in official recognition of this, exempted the Muslim Brotherhood from the banning of political parties in 1957. The Brotherhood was exempted because it was officially registered as a charity although in practice its activities were indistinguishable from those of a political party.

    Following the Arab–Israeli War of 1967 and Israel's occupation of the West Bank of the Jordan River and Gaza, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) established strongholds among the refugee community in Jordan, the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the monarchy was strengthened. During times of crisis, such as Black September in 1970, when the Jordanian army fought Palestinian guerrillas, the king counted on the Muslim Brotherhood as a staunch ally.

    However, there have been fluctuations in the relationship between the monarchy and the movement. Relations have mostly been motivated by political pragmatism rather than Islamic idealism. By the end of the 1970s the king was using the Muslim Brotherhood as a pawn in his foreign policy.

    Pawns and Politics.

    In 1980, as part of a continuing dispute between Jordan and Syria, the king encouraged al-Khalīfah to establish paramilitary bases in the north of Jordan for the purpose of training members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in a campaign to undermine the rule of Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad. By allowing this training, the king increased diplomatic and military tensions with Syria, resulting in a state of near-war, as Syrian and Jordanian troops were moved to the common border between the two countries.The role of the Muslim Brotherhood during the crisis with Syria served to increase the political profile and legitimacy of the movement. Support from local and foreign sponsors—including the Gulf States—for the organization's charitable activities, increased. The Muslim Brotherhood now began to openly criticize aspects of the Jordanian regime for elite corruption and secularism and public immorality. However, the movement miscalculated the king's response to its criticism.

    In 1985 the king publicly defended himself against the Muslim Brotherhood's indirect attacks on his political legitimacy. Now that relations with Syria had improved, the king blamed “Islamic elements” for the crisis in 1980. Jordanian Intelligence services targeted the Muslim Brothers. Members were arrested, lost their jobs, or had their passports confiscated. The king sent a clear message to the Muslim Brotherhood: he would permit and even tacitly encourage a legitimate Islamic presence within the kingdom, but he would not tolerate the Muslim Brotherhood if it sought to undermine the legitimacy of his rule in any way.

    Democratization and Political Pluralism.

    Relations between the regime and the Muslim Brotherhood improved by the end of the 1980s. The king's decision to hold the first elections in over twenty-two years gave the Muslim Brotherhood an opportunity to participate in electoral politics.

    A severe economic crisis combined with food riots precipitated the call for elections. The crisis was the result of decades of economic mismanagement including government imposed price rises on basic foodstuffs which caused genuine hardship for the poorer sectors of society. Widespread unemployment affected not only the poor but also a new educated and professionally skilled generation. This generation also exerted considerable pressure on the regime for democratization.

    The Muslim Brothers saw the elections as an opportunity to increase their political stake in the regime. They had a constituency among the urban and rural poor. They also appealed to members of the educated class. Of particular significance to the Brotherhood's broad appeal was the vagueness of its ideology, a feature it has shared with many other Islamist movements along with the utopian slogan “Islam is the solution.” The Muslim Brotherhood started the campaign with advantages over its rivals in terms of its broad support base and experience of political activism while its adversaries remained proscribed and repressed.

    Political Ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The results of the 1989 election, therefore, should not have been surprising. Nevertheless, there was consternation in the kingdom when it was announced that the Muslim Brotherhood had won enough votes for twenty-two out of eighty seats in the parliament and that Islamist independents had won an additional twelve; this total of thirty-four seats comprised the largest parliamentary bloc. The future stability of the regime was called into question, yet many failed to take into account the fact that the king still possessed the ultimate authority over the legislature (and therefore the Muslim Brotherhood): he could dissolve parliament at any time.

    But the king had not reckoned with the determination of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brothers greeted their electoral success with characteristic zeal. Large amounts of parliamentary time were devoted to specifically Islamic issues, such as the banning of alcohol. By the spring of 1990 the parliament had taken on a life of its own as deputies, led by the Islamic bloc, investigated allegations of corruption in the government and denial of civil liberties. The Public Liberties Committee of the Chamber of Deputies was formed, dominated by members of the Islamist bloc. For the first time King Hussein's regime faced significant opposition from an East Bank constituency pressing for both greater democratization and Islamizing reform. And for the first time since 1970 the regime was challenged by a radicalized Palestinian opposition, this time under an Islamist banner. Hussein realized he could not intervene to try to control parliamentary opposition without undermining his regime's credibility at home and abroad. He could not overlook the extent to which the attitude of the parliament was reflected in the Jordanian “street” emboldened by an atmosphere of political debate.

    In this context, the outbreak of the Gulf crisis in the summer of 1990 played a definitive role in Jordan's history, as it brought the movement unprecedented political influence.

    The crisis presented the organization with a difficult political dilemma centering around conflicting pressures from local constituents and financial backers in the conservative Gulf regimes. The Muslim Brotherhood initially condemned Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, but popular Islamic sentiment expressed in the streets of Amman coupled with the stationing of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia soon persuaded the movement to alter its policy and support the Iraqi leader. The movement called on the king to support Iraq and organized anti-American rallies and demonstrations. Its rhetoric on the Gulf War was emotional and evocative, portraying the battle as one between the Western and Islamic worlds.

    The king, in recognition of the groundswell of public opinion, supported Iraq. He also, in consideration of the powerful popular appeal and mobilizing force of the Muslim Brotherhood, chose to placate the movement by giving it a place in cabinet. The movement was awarded five cabinet appointments including education, religious affairs, health, social development, and justice.

    King Hussein Consolidates Power over the Brotherhood.

    The Brotherhood's period of influence was short-lived, however, lasting only six months. Having survived the Gulf War crisis, the king reconsolidated his position at the expense of the Islamists. He had made it clear to President Bush that he was anxious to restore good diplomatic and financial relations and pledged to become involved in the post war Arab–Israeli peace process. In this regard, the Brotherhood, with its implacable opposition to negotiations with Israel, would only serve as an obstacle to the king.

    In June 1991 he dismissed the cabinet of Prime Minister Badran and asked the foreign minister, Tahir al-Masri, a Palestinian who supported peace with Israel, to form a new government. Predictably, the Brotherhood refused to join a government that would negotiate with Israel. Another important step taken by the king was the approval of a National Charter. The charter legalized political parties but prohibited those with connections, financial or otherwise, outside Jordan. These limitations were aimed directly at the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The Brotherhood did not publicly challenge the measures taken against it by the regime. With a pragmatic eye to its self-preservation, the movement emphasized peaceful coexistence with the government. But tensions simmered below the surface. The king kept the movement under close surveillance by the intelligence services and censored its publications critical of conservative Arab regimes.

    The Brotherhood's formation in December 1992 of a political party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), under the leadership of Dr. Ishaq Farhan, confirmed its commitment to the parliamentary system. The IAF, as distinct from the Muslim Brotherhood, conformed to the requirements of the National Charter. The party's goals, unsurprisingly, were identical to those of the Brotherhood and the party's founders, mostly professionals or civil servants, were mostly Brotherhood members and a few independent Islamists.

    The Brotherhood also hoped that the formation of a separate political party would improve its performance in parliament, but this did not prove to be the case. Three months before the November 1993 elections the king, amidst protestations from the IAF and other political parties, dissolved parliament and imposed a royal decree, transforming the electoral law. The modifications made to the 1986 electoral law were designed to limit the electability of Islamists and to favor rural over urban representation. A system based on a single-member district and the principle of one-person, one-vote replaced the previous system of proportional representation. This meant that voters could no longer select candidates according to both tribal/familial and ideological preferences. This worked to the detriment of ideological candidates who were often passed over in favor of familial ties.

    The new law proved, as the king had intended, to be electorally fatal for the IAF. It won only sixteen seats. Only twenty-four of the eighty candidates in the previous parliament remained. The new parliament was dominated by East Bankers selected primarily on account of their familial or tribal connections and closely tied to the regime.

    The IAF and most other opposition parties demanded a revision to the electoral law. When no changes were forthcoming, the IAF boycotted the 1997 elections along wiTheleven other parties.

    The Muslim Brotherhood and King Abdullah.

    The IAF's fortunes did not improve wiThensuing elections, despite its being Jordan's largest, most organized, and most popular political party. Parliamentary politics in Jordan have remained dominated under the rule of King Abdullah (r. 1999–) by conservative East Bank Hashemite loyalists. The election law has not been relaxed to allow for greater representation of ideological candidates.

    The IAF returned to full electoral participation in 2003, despite a new electoral law that increased the number of deputies to 110 (including a minimum of six seats for women) and maintained uneven electoral districts. The party secured seventeen seats in the expanded parliament, including one for the only woman candidate in the IAF. An additional six seats went to independent Islamists, many of whom were former IAF members. This was a parliament dominated once again by East Banker Hashemite loyalists.

    Realizing they could make little impact in parliament, the Muslim Brotherhood focused on a strategy of building its strength in the professional infrastructure of educational, service and socio-cultural institutions. It took over the leadership of almost every professional association in Jordan and reached out to a wide and divergent public ranging from the educated middle classes to the poorest of the Palestinian refugees.

    While King Abdullah has promised democratizing reforms, he has made no move to implement them. The king has assured the Jordanian public that elections will be held this year (2007), yet there is widespread speculation that elections could be postponed due to regional turmoil.

    The IAF has not indicated decisively whether or not it will participate in the elections. Relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jordanian regime have continued to deteriorate since the 2003 elections. But the election of a Hamas majority to Palestinian parliament in January 2006 seemed to embolden the IAF. Hamas itself was formed from the Muslim Brotherhood with the outbreak of the intifāḍah in Gaza in 1987. Hamas and the Jordanian Brotherhood have maintained close ties and the IAF has deplored King Abdullah's boycott of Hamas.

    Statements issued by the IAF, now under the leadership of Hamzeh Mansour, praising the election of Hamas and promising to challenge the Jordanian electoral law, reflect a new boldness in the organization's rhetoric and a more direct challenge to monarchical rule than ever before, calling for the establishment of a new regime that would bring a referendum to the Jordanian people seeking to overturn the 1994 Israel–Jordan peace treaty.

    While the Muslim Brotherhood's political future is uncertain, the movement's position, popularity, and support throughout Jordan is not. It will be a challenge for King Abdullah, as it was for his father, to find a way to accommodate rather than alienate this powerful Islamist organization.

    See also JORDAN.


    • Boulby, Marion. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Kings of Jordan 1945–1993. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1999.
    • Kilani, Saeda, ed.Islamic Action Front Party. Amman, Jordan: Al-Urdun Al-Jadid Research Center, 1993.
    • Schwedler, Jillian. Fatih in Moderation: Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
    • Wiktorowicz, Quintan. The Management of Islamic Activism: Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood, and State Power in Jordan. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.

    Marion Boulby

    Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan

    The Muslim Brothers comprised an Egyptian Movement started originally by Ḥasan al-Bannā in Ismāʿīlīyah in 1928. It spread rather rapidly, especially among the lower middle class, and gradually became a political movement, though without openly founding a political party. Its involvement in the Arab–Israeli war of 1948 was one of the first open manifestations.

    Reforms to Radicalism: A Brief History.

    In the 1940s it also moved into the terrorist sphere with the burning of Cairo and several political assassinations, which led to the assassination of al-Bannā himself in 1949. It was in the 1940s that Sudanese students studying in Cairo started their own branch of the Muslim Brothers. Jamāl al-Dīn al-Sanhūrī and al-Sādiq ʿAbdallāh ʿAbd al-Mājid were among its earliest propagators, and in 1946 they were sent by the Egyptian movement to recruit members in Sudan. They succeeded in setting up branches in several small towns in 1947–1949 but were stopped from acting openly unless they declared their independence from the Egyptian Brothers, who were at the time illegal. Another early recruit was al-Ṣaʿim Muḥammad Ibrāhīm, a former teacher at Ḥantub secondary school, who founded the Islamic Liberation Movement (ILM; Ḥarakat al-Taḥrīr al-Islāmī), at Gordon College in 1947, in order to combat communism. Its leaders, Babikr Karār and Muḥammad Yūsuf, called for the establishment of a socialist Islamic state.

    Early adherents came primarily from the rural areas of northern Sudan and were deeply committed to Ṣūfī Islam and opposed to communism. The ILM enabled them to adopt a modern Islamic ideology without cutting their ties with their families, who were mostly adherents of the Khatmīyah Ṣūfī order. This dual loyalty did not disturb the Khatmīyah since it did not regard the Muslim Brothers as political rivals. The Sudanese Muslim Brothers were officially founded at the ʿīd Conference, on August 21, 1954, two years after the Free Officers Revolution in Egypt. Al-Rāshid al-Ṭāḥir, one of the Brothers’ most prominent student leaders, later became the movement's murāqib al-ʿam—(general supervisor). A politician and a lawyer, al-Ṭāḥir established close relations with the Free Officers, especially with Ṣalāḥ Salīm, their representative in Sudan, and supported the Egyptian-Sudanese pro-unionist camp. This changed following Nasser's attempted assassination in October 1954, when Egypt turned against its own Muslim Brothers, accusing them of the assassination attempt. The Sudanese Brothers therefore forsook union wiThegypt and joined forces with the Anṣār-Ummah bloc, advocating Sudan's independence.

    After the 1958 military takeover, led by General Ībrāhīm ʿAbbūd, the army's chief of staff, the Muslim Brothers were allowed at first to continue their activities, as a religious movement, while all political parties were banned. However, on November 9, 1959, al-Ṭāḥir plotted to overthrow the regime with an illegal cell within the army, composed of Muslim Brothers, Communists, and others. The plotters were arrested, and the Muslim Brothers lost their cadres in the army as well as their freedom to act. The next important stage in their history started in 1964 when Ḥasan al-Turābī and several leading Brothers returned from their studies abroad. Al-Turābī, who had joined the Brothers while an undergraduate at Khartoum University College in 1954, had completed his postgraduate studies in London and Paris and returned to Sudan with a PhD in constitutional law and an appointment in the School of Law at Khartoum University. There he emerged as the most effective spokesman of the Brothers at the University and started to promote peaceful settlement in the south. Most of the mass demonstrations of students and sympathizers in October 1964, which ultimately led to the civilian revolution and the downfall of General ʿAbbūd, were led by the Muslim Brothers from the University. But compared to the Communists they suffered from certain disadvantages within the intelligentsia and the professionals where they lacked support. They therefore founded the Islamic Charter Front (ICF) in October 1964, with al-Turābī as secretary general. Their reasons for founding the ICF were the following: first, realizing that they were bound to remain a small elitist group, a front organization advocating an Islamic constitution was likely to gain support among Ṣūfīs and Anṣār alike; second, al-Turābī was a pragmatist whose prime concern was political rather than ideological. Hence the purist (fundamentalist) tendencies of the older Muslim Brothers were of little concern to him. The ICF provided an ideal platform for this type of dynamic leadership. In the years 1965–1968 the ICF cooperated with al-Ṣādiq al-Mahdīʾs wing of the Ummah party in its anticommunist drive and in promoting an Islamic constitution. The battle was waged first on university campuses, contesting student elections against the communists. But campus politics provided the launching pad for broader political action, when the ICF allied with the Anṣār, the Khatmīyah, and others succeeded in having the Communist Party of Sudan outlawed in 1965. The ICF also succeeded in formulating an Islamic constitution, in alliance with the Anṣār, which was not implemented due to the May 1969 military coup, led by Colonel Jaʿfar Nimeiri [al-Numayri] and his Communist allies. Following the coup some of the Brothers’ leaders, including al-Turābī, were at first arrested. Others escaped to Aba Island where some lost their lives in the uprising of the Anṣār, in March 1970, while a few made their way to Egypt or other countries. ʿUthmān Khālid represented the Muslim Brothers as Secretary General of the National Front (NF) of Opposition Parties, founded in London in 1970 under the leadership of the DUP and the Ummah parties. Al-Turābī, who was not exiled, met President Nimeiri following the abortive pro-Communist coup of July 1971 and asked for permission to resume the Brothers’ activities. In 1972 their new organization on campus, the Student Unity Front, succeeded in gaining control of Khartoum University Student Union. While the NF, including some of the Brothers’ leaders, continued to advocate armed struggle from their refuge in exile, the majority of the Brothers, led by al-Turābī, advocated pragmatism, leading to cooperation with Nimeiri, instead. Al-Turābī concentrated his efforts on restructuring the Brothers in such a manner that the old guard lost whatever influence they still had while his followers, who had joined in the 1960s, were moved to top positions. Al-Turābī and those Brothers who remained in Sudan were thus well prepared for Nimeiri's move towards an “Islamic path” in the mid-1970s. Lack of democracy did not trouble al-Turābī and his colleagues since they realized that they could not rely on the traditionalist parties, the Ummah and the DUP, in their fight for an Islamic state. Cooperation with Nimeiri seemed reasonable since the latter was seeking their support, influenced by President Anwar el-Sadat's accommodation with the Egyptian Brothers in the early 1970s. The Sudanese Brothers founded the National Islamic Front (NIF) following the failure of the anti-Nimeiri coup led by the Anṣār in July 1976. The appointment of Rāshid al-Ṭāḥir, the one-time leader of the Muslim Brothers, as deputy president and prime minister in that year was also an indication of change. Al-Ṭāḥir, though no longer a member, was generally identified as such by the population. Once national reconciliation became official policy in July 1977, the Brothers were well prepared and grasped whatever positions the government offered.

    Ḥasan al-Turābī himself was appointed attorney general in 1979, while many of his colleagues accepted positions in the judiciary, in the educational and financial systems, and in the Sudan Socialist Union (SSU). The NIF also succeeded in infiltrating the Anṣār-dominated western regions, helped by Muslim Brothers who had become teachers in Kordofan and Darfur. A noteworthy outcome of their close collaboration with Nimeiri was their better organization and financial status, which partly explains their success in the 1986 elections, in which the NIF came in a close third, after the Ummah and the DUP. The NIF's financial supremacy can be attributed to the fact that in the early 1970s it gained control of the Islamic banking system, first through its connections in Saudi Arabia and later through collaboration with Nimeiri. The establishment of the Faysal Islamic bank in 1978 enabled the Muslim Brothers to infiltrate the new system as employees and investors, to gain access to credit, and to obtain a share in profits. The bank also opened the doors for the economic and social advancement of the movement's young adherents and enabled the NIF to establish international financial contacts, primarily in the Arabian Peninsula.

    However, one of the most ingenious methods to finance NIF political activities and enhance their standing, especially in the outlying regions where they had little support, was their manipulative exploitation of Sudanese migrant workers in the Arab oil-producing countries. Their method of achieving this was the following: after Nimeiri's coup and especially his implementation of the sharīʿah laws in 1973, the numbers of migrant workers (mughtāribīn) from Sudan increased by leaps and bounds. In 1985, the year of Nimeiri's deposal, about two-thirds of the professional and skilled Sudanese workers were employed outside Sudan. They sought ways of smuggling their salaries back into Sudan to help their families, without being taxed. The NIF, with whom many of them had sympathized already in Sudan, now offered them an easy solution; it took their money and, after deducting their percentage, gave it to their families in Sudan. The NIF thereby tied the mughtāribīn to its political-religious agenda, gained the support of their families in Sudan, and financed its own daʿwah within the army, where it established secret cells of supporters. It was thus well prepared both for the 1986 general elections and for the June 1989 Islamist-military coup.

    Following the June 1989 coup the NIF enhanced its domination of the banks, the building industry, transport, and the media. Since roughly 90 percent of the banks’ income was invested in import-export ventures, the NIF succeeded in dominating that field at the expense of Khatmīyah supporters who had controlled it in the past. The appointment of  ʿAbd al-Raḥīm Ḥamid, a prominent NIF member, as minister of finance and economy, left little doubt as to the NIF's overwhelming dominance of the state's chief financial institutions. Another reason for the NIF's success in the 1986 elections was its supremacy in the Graduate constituencies. Graduates living abroad were allowed, for the first time, to vote for any constituency they selected. The NIF exploited this new departure by instructing its supporters to vote en bloc for candidates in marginal seats, capturing twenty-three out of twenty-eight Graduate seats. However, this victory also emphasized an inherent weakness of the NIF. Its main strength, even at this stage, was among university students and graduates. Since the June 1989 fundamentalist coup, the NIF further strengthened its hold over all institutes of learning. Dr. Ībrāhīm Aḥmad ʿUmar, an NIF member, became minister of higher education. He dismissed the university's president and all its deans and reorganized higher learning in the five public and private universities, doubling the number of students. This enabled NIF members, who were mostly graduates, to benefit from the increased opportunities of employment which included senior posts in academia as well as diplomatic, economic, and political positions abroad.

    Muslim Brothers and the Army.

    The Muslim Brothers first attempted to infiltrate the military college in Sudan as early as 1955, helped by Abū Makārim ʿAbd al-Ḥayy, an Egyptian officer who had commanded the Muslim Brothers’ Special Apparatus and had escaped to Sudan following the attempt on Nasser's life in October 1954. Next came the abortive coup of November 9, 1959, initiated by Al-Rāshid al-Ṭāḥir to overthrow the military regime of Ībrāhīm ʿAbbūd, with the participation of both Muslim Brothers and other supporters within the army, which clearly indicated their future intentions. The next stage started in the early 1970s when young Sudanese Brothers, serving in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Libya, were trained by Egyptian officers, commanded by Ṣalāḥ Ḥasan, a leading Egyptian Muslim Brother. The NIF's penetration into the army started in earnest in 1977, following national reconciliation, when many young Muslim Brothers joined the army. Its members were put in charge of courses in “Islamic ideology and instruction” (daʿwah) for senior army officers, thus enabling them to infiltrate into the officers’ corps. Four members of the military council that ruled Sudan after the June 1989 coup, including its leader ʿUmar Ḥasan al-Bashīr (b. 1944), attended these courses. Following Nimeiri's deposal the NIF succeeded in strengthening its support within the army even further; it openly supported the army's demands for better pay and equipment, while the Ummah and the DUP remained hesitant. The post-1989 regime is an indication that the NIF's infiltration into the army has paid the expected dividends.

    The Islamist Revolution was not a popular uprising as in Iran, but a military coup brought about by al-Turābī and his supporters in the NIF with the military might of a group of army officers and men led by ʿUmar Ḥasan al-Bashīr. Al-Turābī, along with the leaders of other political parties, was imprisoned in Kobar, where he received special treatment and continued to help his colleagues in the government to conduct the affairs of state. Al-Bashīr's move against the Sudanese Bar Association, undertaken with al-Turābī's full consent, was to emasculate it and appoint instead fellow Islamists, headed by Jalāl ʿAlī Lutfī. Under Lutfī the Special Courts Act was inaugurated, and seventy-five new assistant magistrates with sweeping powers were appointed to supervise the new courts and to impose on Sudan an Islamist judicial system embracing all civil and criminal courts. “Lutfī and al-Turābī believed that justice must be Islamic and that the legal system for the whole of the Sudan, Muslim and non-Muslim, should therefore be Islamic” (Burr and Collins, p. 20). In November 1989, while still in his cell at Kobar prison, al-Turābī played an influential role in the creation of the International Organization for Muslim Women, thereby enforcing his views on women's equality in Islam. (See section on women's rights below.)

    In 1991 al-Turābī organized and headed the Popular Arab and Islamic Congress (PAIC), which he stated would coordinate all anti-imperialist movements of the Muslim world and guide them toward Islamic revolution. The first congress was convened in Khartoum, which had the only international airport through which all Arabs were free to enter without visas (this was abolished in 1995). After the first Gulf War Sudan became a center for extremist anti-establishment Muslim leaders who viewed the Arab League and Saudi Arabia, who had cooperated with the West during that war as having betrayed the Arab-Islamic cause. In Khartoum this congress was hailed as the most significant event since the abolishment of the caliphate, while al-Turābī viewed it as the intellectual Islamist response to the betrayal of Islam by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), who acted purely out of greed and self-interest. On April 25–28, 1991, over two hundred Islamist leaders from forty-five states gathered in Khartoum and planned their next move. They included many who later became known as al-Qaʿida activists, emanating from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Philippines and Mindanao, and of course Palestine, with Yasir Arafat playing a major role there. Ḥamas, at the time, had already opened its office in Khartoum, which became a safe haven for the movement and prompted Arafat to convince the gathered Islamists that Khartoum would “become the springboard for the liberation of Jerusalem.” In fact the founding of the PAIC became the cornerstone for turning Sudan into an international terrorist center, with training camps for Islamists from all over the Muslim world. Thus the Pakistanī Islamist Shaykh Mubarak ʿAlī Shāh Jīlānī set up a training camp in Sudan for some three thousand Pakistani terrorist trainees, while three hundred Sudanese trainees later appeared in the ranks of the militant Ḥizb al-Mujāhidīn in Kashmir.

    Osama Bin Laden had met al-Turābī on several occasions in late 1989, while al-Turābī was still in Kobar prison, and had decided on relocating al-Qaʿida's headquarters from Afghanistan, where they had fought the Soviets, to Sudan, now under Islamist rule. One of its first endeavors in Sudan was the building of Port Sudan's new airport, which enabled al-Qaʿida to transport arms to the mujāhidīn in Yemen and Somali. Furthermore, Bin Laden married al-Turābī's niece, and al-Turābī arranged for Bin Laden to import construction equipment and vehicles duty-free. Al-Qaʿida's leadership was free to move in and out of Sudan and was hosted in Bin Laden's guest house. Once established in Sudan they received a few hundred Sudanese passports from the government, and al-Qaʿida members who so desired obtained Sudanese citizenship without going through any procedures. All of Bin Laden's business in Sudan was conducted through the Islamic banks and he soon became a large landowner as a result of his business endeavors. On his farm south of Khartoum on the Blue Nile, members of al-Qaʿida and many other Muslim extremist organizations, including Egypt's al-Jamāʿat al-Islāmīyah and Palestine's Hamās, received military training. Bin Laden also imported building equipment from Afghanistan to construct twenty-three camps for Afghanī mujāhidīn, who moved to Sudan after their anti-Soviet jihād ended. The paramilitary People's Defence Force (PDF) was established after the June 1989 Islamist coup, in order to offer resistance against the SPLA and to resist anti-Islamist opposition in northern Sudan. Bin Laden also supported the PDF financially and paid for the training of NIF students. Throughout their stay in Sudan the Bin Laden outfit supported al-Turābī and the NIF and helped them achieve their ambitions. Among his more important connections were al-Turābī's ties with the Islamist regime in Iran as well as with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Ḥamas. By that time there was a growing rift within the Sudanese intelligence service, between the military and the NIF, with the army regaining control of the service despite NIF aggravation. In fact, President Bashīr was opposed to doing business with Bin Laden and al-Qaʿida and ordered his officers stop it. It was at that time, in 1995, that street demonstrators in Khartoum demanded “Prison for al-Turābī” for the first time since the 1989 coup. In September 1995, an assassination attempt on President Qadhdhāfī of Libya took place, which had many similarities with the attempt made earlier on President Mubarak and thus widened the gap between Qadhdhāfī and the Islamists both at home and in Sudan. In fact, Qadhdhāfī ordered his air force to bombard Islamist training camps on his border wiThegypt in July 1996, with President Mubarak's full blessing.

    In 2000 Ḥasan al-Turābī was imprisoned once again, and the al-Turābī era seemed to have come to an end. Whether or not it was the final exit of this brilliant and devious leader from the political-ideological arena of militant Islam remains to be seen.

    Muslim Brothers and Southern Sudan.

    The Muslim Brothers’ policy towards the southern question changed in the 1970s. Instead of the liberal attitude of al-Turābī and his followers in 1964–1965, some now advocated partition, claiming that as long as Sudan remained united an Islamic state would be impossible. The majority continued to insist on an Islamic state within a united Sudan, which would become the bastion for Islam in Africa. The NIF founded the African Islamic Center to undertake its missionary work in southern Sudan, and in 1982 the Association of Southern Muslims was set up to establish Islamic schools and villages in the south. It was funded by Kuwait and the Gulf Emirates and boosted by the mass influx of Muslim refugees from Uganda, who fled following Idi Amin's deposal in 1979. The close relations between the NIF and southern Muslims helped the party in the 1986 elections in the south and explains the importance of this issue in the NIF's election campaign. In January 1987 the NIF published its national charter, in which it elaborated on its special relationship with southern Sudan and explained its program for Islamizing the region. Al-Turābī proposed a policy in which the Muslim Brothers would play the role of the Islamic vanguard in the south with the traditionalists (Ṣūfīs) forced to follow suit. A major concession was the NIF's acceptance of the right of all citizens, regardless of religion, to hold any public office. It promised freedom of conscience and equality before the law, stating that in a federal state, non-Muslim regions would be allowed to opt out of the Islamic legal system, based on sharīʿah. However, the NIF consistently rejected any compromise entailing secularism and the June 1989 coup can be partly attributed to the NIF's adamant opposition to accommodate the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

    Relations with Muslim Brothers in Egypt and Other Parties.

    The Sudanese Muslim Brothers remained independent from their Egyptian namesakes and offered a unique Sudanese version of the Brothers’ ideology. They compared their relationship to that between the Sudanese ʿAshiqqīyah and the Egyptian Wafd in the 1940s; both advocated the unity of the Nile Valley, but under their own separate identities. An additional reason for their insistence on their own identity was their fear that a united front with the Egyptian Brothers would automatically exclude the anti-Egyptian Anṣār, their most cherished Sudanese, allies. The Brothers’ attempt to exploit front organizations which were less suspect to the Sudanese who disliked extremism, was regarded as a way to reach broader circles especially among Khatmīyah supporters, and is reminiscent of communist practices. Similarly, the Brothers attempted to infiltrate into other parties in order to gain a foothold from within. Rāshid al-Ṭāḥir attempted to become an Ummah candidate in the 1957 elections, while Muḍathīr ʿAbd al-Raḥīm and ʿUthman Jādallāh infiltrated into the editorial board of al-Jihād, the Khatmīyah newspaper. The internal rift within the movement, between those declaring their affinity with the Egyptian Brothers and those opposing it, was never really healed. Some of the older leaders, such as al-Ṣādiq ʿAbd al-Mājid and Jaʿfar Shaykh Idrīs, continued to attack al-Turābī's strategy from their exile in the Gulf States throughout the Nimeiri years. They were closely associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brothers and following the release from prison of Ḥasan al-Huḍaybī, the leader of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, in 1973, they suggested joining the world organization of Muslim Brothers under his leadership. Politically they criticized al-Turābī's un-Islamic views with regard to the role of women in society and censured his intimacy with Nimeiri and his regime. Their suggestions were defeated in the shūrā council and though ʿAbd al-Mājid was offered the deputy leadership, upon his return to the Sudan in the late 1970s, he declined and formed an independent movement of Muslim Brothers which challenged the NIF unsuccessfully in the 1986 elections.

    Ideology of the Brothers.

    The Islamic constitution was proposed by the Muslim Brothers in 1956 and sought the establishment of an Islamic republic, under a Muslim head of state, with a parliament democratically based on Islamic law and legislating in accordance with the sharīʿah. Muslims would be able to shape their lives in accordance with the dictates of their religion and to uproot social evils and corruption. Discrimination on the basis of race or religion would be forbidden and non-Muslim citizens would enjoy all rights granted under Muslim law. A more pragmatic approach became noticeable following the October 1964 revolution and al-Turābī's rise to prominence. The newly formulated Islamic Charter proposed a presidential, rather than a parliamentary, system for the sake of greater stability and put greater emphasis on minority and regional rights. It undertook a complete revision of personal law in order to grant equal rights to women. The religion of the head of state was not mentioned in the Charter, a clear gesture to non-Muslims. The Charter proclaimed that even though all Muslims constituted one community, a Muslim state should be set up which would encompass only Sudanese, and no Muslims outside Sudan should be included in it. Resident non-Muslims, on the other hand, would be citizens wiThequal standing, guaranteed freedom of religion, decentralization, and public rights. Al-Turābī advocated a gradual non-violent approach based on education and opposed the implementation of the ḥudūd (punishments) at this stage, claiming that they should only be applied in an ideal Muslim society. The fact that the NIF later supported the ḥudūd, when imposed in September 1983 by Nimeiri, was justified on the ground that the ḥudūd were part of an educational process whereby the state hoped to improve the morals of its citizens. The NIF continued to support the implementation of these laws both after Nimeiri's deposal and following the military coup of June 1989. Dr. al-Mikāshfī Ṭāhā al-Kabbāshī, a leading NIF jurist, was a member of the committee assigned to revise the laws in accordance with the sharīʿah and headed the Supreme Court of Appeal in Khartoum beginning in 1984. In his book, The Implementation of the Sharīʿah in the Sudan between Truthfulness and Falsehood, he fully justified the implementation of these Islamic laws, including the execution of Maḥmūd Muḥammad Ṭāhā for apostasy in January 1985, in which he was personally involved in his capacity as president of the Court of Appeals. For al-Kabbāshī and others in the NIF there was never any doubt as to Sudan's Islamic identity which implied the jāhilī (unenlightened) status of all non-Muslims. Sudan's Islamic army would fight the enemies of Islam, “Communists, Crusaders, Zionists, [and Free] Masons” or their Sudanese supporters, under the banner of Islam. However, regions in which non-Muslims constituted the majority would be allowed to opt out of the Islamic legal system, provided Sudan became a federation.

    Muslim Brothers and Democracy.

    Democracy, as formulated by al-Turābī, was based on both pragmatic and ideological considerations. Since the establishment of an Islamic state was the primary aim, the ways of achieving it became secondary. Ideologically, there were several differences between Western democracy and the Islamic shūrā (assembly). First, the West separates democracy from religion, which contradicts the shūrā. Second, the shūrā provides a system whereby the life of all believers is fully coordinated, whereas Western democracy is limited to politics. Third, shūrā grants democratic rights only in so far as these are in full agreement with sharīʿah, whereas in Western democracy human rights are not limited by religious considerations. Fourth, Western democracy distinguishes between political passions and human morals, while in Islam the two are inseparable. Finally, the shūrā provides greater guarantees for the unity of the believers than Western democracy. The shūrā accordingly can become a popular process which, unlike secular democracy, is based on the sovereignty of God and Islamic morality and free from secular distortions and manipulations. Shūrā can be applied by any group of people and is not limited by constitutional considerations. Military regimes can therefore apply the shūrā as well as elected parliaments as long as they fully implement the sharīʿah.

    Renewal and Revival.

    Renewal and revival (tajdīd) were among al-Turābī's most cherished ideas, claiming that Islam had to be rethought on a permanent basis and was open to radical change by the Muslim community, not necessarily by learned reformers. There were eternal principles in Islam, but fiqh, the classical exposition of Islamic law inherited from earlier generations of Muslims, was a mere human endeavor which may be re-evaluated in accordance with present requirements. For many generations fuqahāʿ (jurists of Islamic law) had neglected to rethink and redefine the role of the state and the role of the public in the formulation of Islamic law. Modern fiqh should concentrate on social rather than individual issues, since the former were hardly tackled in a largely individualistic society. The reopening of the doors of ijtihād (independent theological reasoning) was advocated by the Muslim Brothers. With very few exceptions, reflecting eternal components of divinity, everything was open to review and reinterpretation. The methodology suggested by al-Turābī was based on his formulation of tawḥīd, which involved the union of the eternal divine commands with changing conditions of human life and a demand for harmony between reason and revelation. Tawḥīd should therefore lead to a single comprehensive methodology of reinterpretation, embracing all human knowledge, religious, natural, and social, absorbed through the filter of Islamic knowledge.

    Women's Rights.

    Women's rights in Islam are one of the central issues in the ideology of the Sudanese Muslim Brothers. This was true also of other Islamic movements throughout the world; however, al-Turābī's contribution to this issue is unique. In his publication al-Marʿa fī taʿalim al-Islām (1993) (The Woman in Islamic Studies) he states that in Islam there is complete equality between male and female. Thus women are free to choose their partners in life, to own property, and to hold almost any public position. He admits that these principles had not been implemented in Islam since early times due to pre-Islamic (jāhilīyah) habits that prevailed in society. The early sharīʿah judges were the ones who misinterpreted these rules and as result women in Islam had been discriminated against. Therefore, according to al-Turābī, women should be allowed to participate in a mixed (muḥālatah) society because the sharīʿah does not forbid their socializing with men. Consequently women are allowed by Islamic rules to move freely out of their homes. He also challenges the wearing of hijāb as obligatory and states that in the Qurʿān only the wives of the Prophet Muḥammad were obliged to wear it. As for public office in government (including as judges), municipalities, or the army, al-Turābī proposed sweeping reforms to enable women to play central roles in all these positions. However, it is interesting to note that he did not challenge the sharīʿah on issues like divorce, inheritance, or other matters of personal status specified in the sharīʿah.



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    • Kabbāshī, al-Mukāshifī Ṭāhā al-. Taṭbīq al-sharīʿah fī al-Sūdān bayna al-ḥaqiqah waʿl-ʿithārah.Cairo: al-Zahraʿ lil-iʿlam al-Arabi, 1986.
    • Köndgen, Olaf. Das Islamische Strafrecht des Sudan von seiner Einfuhrung 1983 bis Dezember 1991. Hamburg: Deutsches Orient Institut, 1992.
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    • Turābī, Ḥasan al-.“Al-shūrā wa-al-dīmūqraṭīyah: Ishkālāt al-muṣtalaḥ waʿl-mafhūm.”al-Mustaqbal al-ʿArabi, 8/75 (May 1985): 13–20.
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    • Wolf, Susanne. “The Muslim Brotherhood in the Sudan.”Masterʾs thesis, University of Hamburg, 1990.

    Gabriel R. Warburg

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